Wednesday, 2 September 2020

Dorothy Simpson R.I.P.

Dorothy Simpson

I was sorry to learn of the death on 20 August of Dorothy Simpson, at the age of 87. Dorothy was an accomplished crime novelist whom I had the pleasure of meeting several times during the 1990s, at CWA conferences. She belonged to roughly the same generation of female novelists as June Thomson, Clare Curzon, Anthea Fraser, Marjorie Eccles, Marion Babson, Eileen Dewhurst, and Ann Granger, all of them makers of sound and enjoyable traditional mysteries. I didn't know Dorothy as well as the others I mention, but my rather distant memory is of someone charming and elegant with a good sense of humour.

I knew her as the author of the Inspector Thanet novels, but I gather that she came to writing (as did a number of her predecessors, including Freeman Wills Crofts, G.D.H. Cole, and Patricia Moyes) after a period of convalescence. She began with a suspense novel, Harbingers of Fear, which was published in 1977.

After that came some rejections, but then she created Thanet and and never looked back after publishing The Night She Died in 1981. Something I didn't know until recently was that she spent thirteen years as a marriage guidance counsellor. This was an experience she found invaluable as a writer. As she pointed out in a comment on her website, murder mysteries are about relationships that go wrong, and her understanding of what makes people tick was a great asset.

The series is set in Kent, where she lived for many years, although she came originally from south Wales. Her novel Last Seen Alive won the CWA Silver Dagger in 1985, just pipped to the Gold by Paula Gosling's Monkey Puzzle. The other nominees were two illustrious names, Andrew Taylor and Jill Paton Walsh, an indicator of the quality of Dorothy Simpson's work. The book was later included in an omnibus of three novels which introduced me to her stories. I hadn't seen her for a very long time, and I gather that severe RSI put paid to her writing after her last novel appeared in 1999, which is a shame. But she leaves a literary legacy of real merit.


pattinase (abbott) said...

I certainly enjoyed that series. Sorry to learn of her death.

Fiona said...

I'm sorry to read this. I love her Thanet series and re-read them all (yet again!) only last month

Dean James said...

Sad to hear this. She was indeed a warm and charming person, and I thoroughly enjoyed all the Luke Thanet books.

Agatha said...

Thank you for telling us this Martin. Her books gave me a great deal of pleasure when they were first published and then the electronic reprints showed me they had not dated and I enjoyed them all over again. An under rated writer.
Thank you for your blog and your books.

Martin Edwards said...

Thanks for these comments. Yes, despite that Silver Dagger, I think it's fair to say that she has been under-rated as a crime writer, certainly in the present century.